Listed as one of the intriguing asteroids in the solar system, Psyche-16 has for years captured the imaginations of scientists, space explorers, and space enthusiasts.
It is believed that this asteroid, which is located millions of kilometers from Earth, consists mainly of precious metals such as nickel, gold and iron, which has led to speculation about its economic value and its ability to make humanity billionaires.
It was first noticed in 1852 by the Italian astronomer Annibale de Gasparis, who also discovered that it was made of materials of such high value that “its value could be 300 times higher than the entire global economy”, according to a report in the Daily Mail. British. A study published by the scientific journal Planetary Science Journal. Likewise, this investigation indicates that the mysterious space rock is the largest of its kind recorded to date, with a diameter of about 220 kilometers.
Just one detail: It’s at least 370 million kilometers from Earth, and it orbits between Mars and Jupiter, in what’s known as the “asteroid belt.”
A group of Chilean researchers conducted a study of the steroid at the ALMA Observatory in Chile, and confirmed that “its exorbitant value is due to the fact that it consists mainly of expensive metals such as iron, gold and nickel, although it can contain others such as platinum and copper.”
This is in contrast to most asteroids, which are composed mostly of rock and metal. “The early solar system was a violent place, with planetary bodies merging and then colliding with each other as they settled into orbits around the sun,” said Catherine de Claire, lead author of the study.
“We believe that fragments of the cores, mantle and crusts of these bodies are still present today in the form of asteroids. If this is true, it gives us our only real opportunity to study the cores of planet-like bodies directly.” Psyche-16 is also known as the “golden asteroid,” and it is estimated that the iron in the asteroid alone would be worth $10 trillion. In 2019, the value of the global economy, according to Forbes magazine, was $142 trillion.
NASA plans to study it in 2026
Since its discovery, the asteroid has intrigued researchers, as space rocks with this level of mineral content are generally very rare. Experts believe that this orb could be part of the core of a primordial planet. A group of NASA astronomers began planning the exploration trip in 2022, and this mission is expected to be fully completed in 2026. Studying the asteroid Psyche-16 could provide valuable information about the formation of other rocky planets orbiting in the solar system.
“We’ve seen other meteorites that are mostly metallic, but what makes Psyche-16 unique is that it may be made entirely of gold, iron and nickel,” Tracy Baker, a planetary scientist involved in the NASA mission, said in 2020. “What makes Psyche-16 and other asteroids so interesting is that they are considered to be solar system formation rocks. When we get there, we’ll understand if that’s the case, and if not, it’s just as exciting,” Baker added.